Dogs gone

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Worth Township neighbors charged with killing dogs in separate incidents

Last week wasn’t very good for some dogs in Worth Township.
Two men from unincorporated Worth Township who live in the same blockPage-2-or-3-1-col-Andrew-Plecki2Andrew Plecki have been charged with aggravated animal cruelty after allegedly killing dogs in separate incidents, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s Police.
Andrew Plecki, 48, of the 11700 block of Ridgeland Avenue, allegedly shot his girlfriend’s 12-year-old chocolate Labrador in the head with an air rifle on May 26 for unknown reasons, according to a sheriff’s spokesman.
The dog, which was sick, was taken to Crestwood Animal Clinic, 5443 W. 135th St., where it was put down, according to the sheriff’s spokesman.
Plecki appeared in court the following day where bond was set at $40,000. He remains in jail and is expected to appear at Bridgeview Court on June 17.
Meanwhile, Christopher Krentkowski, 35, also of the 11700 block of Ridgeland Avenue, was charged with two counts of aggravated domestic battery and Christopher-KrentkowskiChristopher Krentkowskione count of aggravated animal cruelty after allegedly injuring his mother and killing her dog,
Krentkowski allegedly dragged his mother’s 15-year-old dog out of a bedroom at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and began to kick it.
When his 53-year-old mother told him to stop, he tried to strangle her and struck her head with a bookcase, injuring her, according to the sheriff’s investigation. Krentkowski continued to physically assault the dog, causing its death, police said.
Krentkowski was arrested on Sunday and received a $125,000 bond during a court appearance on Monday at the Bridgeview Courthouse. He is scheduled to appear in court on June 26 at the Bridgeview Courthouse.


Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: A good Bette – prediction on Townsend was an ace


Jeffs Col ImpressionsThanks for the tip, Bette.
It’s not often that the Palos community and Regional Publishing can brag about being way ahead of the curve in the world of professional tennis, but it’s time to stretch out our long arms and give ourselves, as Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin would say, a “public pat on the back.’’
Last week, 18-year-old Chicago native Taylor Townsend rocked the tennis world when she became the youngest player to reach the third round of the French Open since 2003.
Earlier this week, Sports Illustrated profiled her on its website and quoted male tennis star Andy Murray as saying “I love the way she plays. This is a player who has a lot of talent. A talent rarely seen, either in men or in women.’’
The world has discovered Taylor Townsend, who now hails from Atlanta.
But a couple of Decembers ago, Regional readers discovered her courtesy of Palos Heights’ Bette Sacks.
We were doing a profile on Sacks who, at the time, was 72 and still competing in the sport. Sacks touched on a variety of topics including breaking JV Column-Taylor-TownsendThis photo of Sheila Townsend photographing her daughter, Taylor, with family friend Bette Sacks of Palos Heights appeared on the front page of the Dec. 6, 2012 Regional. At the time, Sacks predicted great things for Townsend and last week, Townsend drew international attention by making it to the third round of the French Open at age 18. Submitted photo.some African-American and gender barriers in the sport back in the day, dining with Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams and working at Lake Katherine.
Sacks also talked about being friends with Townsend and coached her a little a few years ago.
“Years later, she is one of the best players in the world,” Sacks said. “It’s amazing.’’
Sacks was gracious enough to send us a photo of Townsend’s mother, Sheila, taking a photo of Taylor and Sacks. Regional editor Jack Murray loved the photo and ran it on Page 1 of the Dec. 6, 2012 edition of the paper. I loved the photo because if Sacks was right and this girl was the real deal, it would be cool to say we had a picture of the phenom way back when.
Sacks was right.
And it’s cool to say we had a picture of the phenom way back when.
I can’t say for a fact that we were the first Chicago area newspaper to put Taylor Townsend on the front page. But I remember researching Townsend back then and there was scant information about her on the local level.
Wimbledon is just around the corner, so it’s going to be a lot of fun seeing if Townsend-mania around the world will continue.
I’m not sure if we will ever have another next-great-player on the front page of one of our papers, but you can bet that if Bette tells us about someone, we will listen.

Keeping these ‘harty’ boys on the go, go, go
There are a couple of new names popping up you may or may not have noticed here at Regional Publishing.
Frank Gogola and Declan Harty join the veteran Tony Pinto as interns on our roster of superstars. Like Pinto, both grew up in the area and attended Stagg High School.
Gogola hails from Palos Hills and we’ve had him off and running with sports features on Mt. Assisi’s final sporting event and a look at four coaches who are hanging up their whistles who have had magnificent careers.
He’s done work for school newspapers at Moraine Valley and Northern Illinois University as well as spending a summer with an online site called
Oh, and he has some coaching chops as well as he was a head soccer and assistant hoops coach at St. Patricia School.
Harty is from Palos Park and attends the University of Illinois. His specialty is features and has turned in some terrific work at the Champaign school’s newspaper, including a day in the life of Urbana firemen.
We threw him into the fire right away with pieces on the closing of St. Bernedette and Mt. Assisi and he stopped by Saturday in Oak Lawn to listen to gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner insult current governor Pat Quinn at the opening of Rauner’s new headquarters.
Harty played a year of football at Illinois Wesleyan University, so he knows his way around sports as well.
His work will appear in both the Reporter and Regional.
I’m looking forward to seeing these guys progress as the summer gets hotter.


‘Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich’ group Warrant to rock RidgeFest

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  The hard rock band Warrant is the main event for RidgeFest.

  The band, which achieved enormous success in the late 1980s and early 1990s, will take the stage on Thursday, July 24, and is expected to be major draw for the annual fest, said Mayor Chuck Tokar.
  Warrant is expected to take the stage at 8:30 p.m. Suburban Cowboys will open for the band at 6:30 p.m. The country cover band plays both current hits and classic tunes.
  Warrant, which hailed from Hollywood, Calif., had five albums reach international sales over 10 million. The band first came into the national spotlight with its double platinum debut album “Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich,” and one of its singles, “Heaven,” reached No. 1 in Rolling Stone and No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
  The band continued its success in the early 1990s with the double platinum album “Cherry Pie,” which provided the hit album title song and music video.
  RidgeFest, which will serve as a celebration of the village’s 100th anniversary, will run from July 24-27 at Freedom Park, Birmingham and Oak avenues.
  Fest hours are 5:30-10:30 p.m. Thursday, 5:30-11:30 p.m. Friday, 3-11:30 p.m. Saturday and 2-10:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $5 on Thursday and Sunday, $10 on Friday and $12 on Saturday. Residents with an ID will be admitted free on Sunday.
  The fest also will feature games, acts and local food vendors. Sunday is designated as children’s day with numerous activities and acts scheduled.
  While Warrant was added to the entertainment lineup for fans of hard rock, the fest will offer live music for every taste.
  Your Villian My Hero will hit the stage on Friday, July 25. The band combines Top 40 pop, club and dance music. The set list includes hits by Lady Ga Ga, Black Eyed Peas, Pink and Outkast. Yacht Rock Review also will play.
  The final day of the fest will feature popular Beatles cover band American English and the Chicago 6, a variety band featuring former Chicago Bears Dan Hampton, Otis Wilson and Steve McMichael.
  Saturday is dedicated to country music as Emerson Drive and Blackberry Smoke take the stage. Emerson Drive is a Canadian band well-known on the country circuit for hits such as “I Should Be Sleeping,” “Fall Into Me,” “Last One Standing” and their chart-topping ballad, “Moments.”
  Blackberry Smoke, meanwhile, has toured with The Marshall Tucker Band, ZZ Top Lynyrd Skynyrd and George Jones. They’ve toured Europe and have had their songs featured in video games and films as well. The band is known for mixing elements of gospel, bluegrass, arena rock, soul and more than a touch of outlaw country.

For St. Bernadette and Mt. Assisi…SCHOOLS OUT FOREVER

  • Written by Declan Harty

PAGE-1-2-and-a-half-col-chiars-on-desksChairs are placed on the top of desks at St. Bernadette in Evergreen Park (above) for the final time as the school closed to the public on Saturday. Sheridan and Megan Kirkland (below) pose with a half-headed anatomy dummy in the science room on Saturday. Both graduated from St. Bernadette. Megan graduated from Mt. Assisi, which is also closing, and Sheridan was a freshman at the Lemont high school. Photo by Jeff Vorva.Page-1-or-Page-5-2-and-a-half-col-kirklans-science

Closing schools host their final open houses

Over the past 65 years, countless opportunities to receive an education in the community have been available. Whether the school is public or private, a high school or a grade school, the selections seem endless. 

Two of these schools, though, have closed their doors for the final time. Both Mt. Assisi Academy, located at 13860 Main St. in Lemont, and St. Bernadette Catholic Academy at 9311 S. Francisco Ave. in Evergreen Park, have held their final classes and will not reopen in the fall. The schools’ communities celebrated their legacies with St. Bernadette on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. 

It was a 24-hour period of laughs and tears and many memories.

St. Bernadette
St. Bernadette Catholic Academy, which has been open since 1949, according to the school’s website, held a final celebration, which included a mass and a picnic-like event for students, families, alumni and faculty and staff of the school.
Sister Mary Paul McCaughey, superintendent of the schools for the archdiocese, met with parents in January to announce the decision to close the school citing enrollment as the principal reason.
The current enrollment for this past year was 98 students at St. Bernadette, a number that has consistently declined. When the school opened in 1949, there were 365 students in 12 classrooms, and a little over a decade later in 1965 there was 1,257 students enrolled at the school, according to the school’s website.
But in recent years, graduating classes have dwindled to minimal numbers. Sheridan Kirkland said her graduating class from St. Bernadette in 2013 was eight and the class of 2012 was four students.
PAGE-1-1-col-COLOR-Sister Sister Mary VenturaMegan Kirkland graduated from St. Bernadette in 2007 and Mt. Assisi in 2011. Both Sheridan and Megan said the rumors of the school closing have been around since Megan graduated in 2007.
“For St. Bernadette, when I was in sixth grade they gave us a two year guarantee that they would not close and that ended when I was in eighth grade,” Sheridan said. “So that is probably why they closed this year because that was the end of it.”
Sister Mary Ventura was honored at the celebration’s mass for her service to St. Bernadette’s community. Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton read a proclamation to her. Ventura has been at St. Bernadette for 30 years and said she is pleased with how much the school has done for the community.
“The school has done so much for children in the area,” she said. “I’m really happy with what we have done.”
Despite the school’s closing, the parish will remain open, and continue to serve the community.
“I feel like now people don’t as much associate themselves with what parish they are from,” Megan Kirkland said. “But I feel like at least because we still have the church we still have the community. Even though everyone knew Bernadette was going to be closing it is still really hard when you hear the news.”
Those who had a chance to mill about in the humid hallways and classrooms for one last time on Saturday had bittersweet reactions.
One woman with a camera stopped by the principal’s office and smiled.
“I don’t need to go in there,” she said. “I know what it looks like. I have been in there enough when I went to school here.”

 Mt. Assisi Academy

Since 1951, Mt. Assisi Academy’s steep hillside front to its 60-acre campus has been a notable option for a Catholic school all-girls education. On Sunday, the Mt. Assisi community celebrated the school’s history and legacy as the school shut its doors on May 23.
“It is a day of a lot of mixed emotions,” said Sister Therese Ann Quigney, provincial superior of the School Sisters of St. Francis of Christ the King. “Certainly we are sad to see that we can’t go on. But we are also gratified to see the outpouring of gratitude and spirit…It will live on. Even though the institution is gone, the spirit and the relationships will live on.”
The celebration began with a liturgy of Thanksgiving and Closing at the back of the campus on the school’s soccer fields to a crowd of approximately 1,550 people, according to Carrie Peters, development manager of Mt. Assisi and a mother of three daughters who have attended the school.
Many of the girls who are still enrolled in high school will be attending different catholic institutions such as Queen of Peace, Marist and Mother McAuley and public schools as well, according to both Peters and Gail Andjulis, vice president of the boosters vice president and mother of two daughters.
But despite the loss that is faced in losing a school, Peters said she was not surprised that the school was closing.
“I think even when my oldest daughter was here, the sisters would send home letters. They were always asking for help,” she said. “I think they were pretty clear, at least I felt like it all the way along in that ‘now is the time’, ‘we need help’ and ‘please donate’… Anybody can look at the enrollment numbers and know that it is hard to run a school with 140 girls.”
The school’s low enrollment numbers are a mere fraction of what the peak enrollment was in the school’s history. In the mid-1970s, enrollment exceeded 700 students, according to Quigney. The decision to close the school was announced to the public in a letter by her on the school’s website in late January.
Sheridan Kirkland of Evergreen Park will be a sophomore next year at Mother McAuley, after finishing her freshman year at Mt. Assisi. Kirkland said the decision to close the school was based on the entrance exam for the upcoming school year, and there were ten less girls than were needed.
According to Kim Johnson Quinn, president of Mt. Assisi Academy, the skills and the time the girls have spent at the school will continue on in their transfers and in their future.
“I know the girls are prepared, whether they have had one year here or three years here, they have the confidence and ability to go on and transfer and accomplish some great things in the world,” she said.
As for the school itself, the future remains undecided. The School Sisters of St. Francis of Christ the King own the 60-acre campus, but officials say no decision has been made about the property.
Quigney said that she has had a variety of favorite memories in her 44 years at Mt. Assisi. Some of which include Kairos trips and leading the newspaper club at the school, but she said most importantly she loved seeing the girls flourish.
“Seeing the girls grow, and getting confident. You watch that all the time, and that is what part of today is all about. Seeing that powerful spirit of these ladies, and knowing we were part of that,” she said. “I am looking forward to seeing what the next piece will be and how what we have done already will form the foundation for that.”

 Kirkland girls suffer a double whammy

 Megan Kirkland and Sheridan Kirkland learned in January that both their grade school and high school would close at the end of the spring semesters. 

The two met for the first time Saturday night at an open house for St. Bernadette in Evergreen Park. They sat in a humid science lab at St. Bernadette and found out that they not only shared a last name, but a rare fact that they would both lose their grade school alma mater and also their initially chosen high school, Mt. Assisi.
Sheridan, who lives in Chicago, finished her freshman year of high school at Mt. Assisi in Lemont and will transfer to Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School in the fall because of the school’s closing. Megan, who lives in Evergreen Park, will enter her senior year at University of Minnesota in the fall after graduating from Mt. Assisi in 2011 and St. Bernadette in 2007.
For both Megan and Sheridan, the schools offered a community that others cannot because of their size.
“It is just like creating the community within the school, we were not separated by age or class,” Megan said of the atmosphere at Mt. Assisi.
Though the girls share no relation, they said they are a part of a larger population that has been affected by both schools. Sheridan said there was a lot of crying going on at the Lemont school.
The Kirkland girls said that at Mt. Assisi, their favorite memories included the school spirit, Kairos retreats and the atmosphere created by activities such as big and little sister day. Sheridan described that day as an opportunity for freshman and seniors to match up and bond through activities and games for a day to help make freshman at home.
For St. Bernadette, the girls stressed that the smaller class sizes and environment allowed them to make relationships that may last a lifetime.
“I think the best thing about Bernadette is not a memory, but the fact that because it is such a small school that you really do become friends with everyone,” Megan said. “It really did form friendships and life long lasting relationships.”
There were rumors of both closing in recent years, and with Sheridan’s 2013 St. Bernadette graduating class at eight students, she said she was not too surprised by the Evergreen Park school’s closing. However, both Megan and Sheridan said they thought Mt. Assisi had a few more years to operate.
“Everyone was really shell shocked, the moment we heard everyone was in tears. It was really sad,” Sheridan said of the day that students at Mt. Assisi heard of the closing.
Sheridan said that following a meeting the night before, students were taken into small groups with faculty and staff where they discussed the best way to make the most out of the remaining time at Mt. Assisi.
For Megan, Mt. Assisi was especially difficult because of her location. Megan studied abroad in Kenya this past semester, and found out about Mt. Assisi’s closing there. She said that she had not expected the closing to happen so soon.
“Mt. Assisi totally took me by surprise,” Megan said. “I think because of that shock it has been really difficult because these are places that formed us as people for 12 years and are closing.”





Jeff Vorva's imPRESSions: Two schools close and a farmers market opens


Jeffs-Col-ImpressionsI’ve often told people that one of the joys of working in this dying profession is that no two days of work are the same.
You start your day off with a plan and more often than not, the plan changes because you just can’t predict the news. There have been a few occasions that I was moving stories around and reporter Bob Rakow and I were writing a few minutes before deadline because some major news story had the audacity to break right when we were fluffing up the pillows ready to put the paper to bed.
Even when there are events planned, no two days are the same.
There is a three-day span coming up thatPAGE-3-2-col-JVcolThere were good times at Mt. Assisi over the years but the school will host a Thanksgiving and Closing Mass on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Mt. Assisi Facebook page. will feature some emotional punches for different reasons.
On Saturday, the month of May ends and so does St. Bernadette School. The Evergreen Park school is closing its doors because of financial woes, and there will be a 4 p.m. Mass at the church and a celebration and open house from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. for people to tour and visit the classrooms one more time. And there will be free pizza.
It will be a day of mixed emotions.
School closings are feel-bad stories on so many levels.
On Sunday, June will be busting out all over. It will be a new month!
And there will be another school closing to deal with, darn it.
At 11 p.m., more than 1,500 people are expected to drive up the hill one more time for the Thanksgiving and Closing Mass at Mt. Assisi Academy in Lemont, which has had a lot of students from our area attend over the years.
The outdoor Mass will be followed by hot dogs and hamburgers available for purchase. Like with St. Bernadette the day before, there will be tours of the old classrooms on that day.
That brings us to Monday.
After two sad end-of-an-era days in a row, Monday will bring us a dawn of a new era.
Chicago Ridge, a town that is celebrating its 100th anniversary, will host its first farmers market.
While it can’t equate with the importance of school closings, it is still a pretty cool thing. Farmers markets have been staples in some communities for years. People love them.
So starting at 2 p.m. on Monday at 10739 S. Ridgeland Ave., Chicago Ridge will host its first Working Man’s Farmers Market until 7 p.m.
The CR bosses are calling it “unique and convenient for all.”
Stuff for sale include beef, chicken, turkey, pork, egg, herbs, honey, breads, cupcake, tamales, kettle corn, soaps and hot dogs.
The market will run the first and third Mondays of each month until Oct. 6.

Nun left?
With the closing of Mt. Assisi, Chicago Ridge reader Rita Pratl posed an interesting question in an e-mail she sent our way.
“Since we heard the heartbreaking news of the school’s closure, I’ve been contemplating something -- where is the next closest school that has religious women [nuns] in habits teaching in the classroom?’’ she said. “I’ve actually asked several people, and I haven’t heard of any yet.  Is there a school on the North Side?  Is there a school in our neighboring states?  It’s truly an end to an era, a sad end.  The connection between young girls and sisters is really amazing.
“They converse about topics in today’s world that young girls need to sort through, they joke and tease each other a bit, and they pray together regularly.  It’s a truly amazing connection.  I attend many events at school and at each one -- dances, awards ceremonies, graduations, etc. -- you can see a student hugging a nun and it’s a wonderful sight to behold. There is something both magical and holy that happens up on that beautiful hill.”

First ImPRESSions
Last week, the old column title of “Editor’s Notebook” and even older photo of me have been replaced.
When I wrote for the Regional, I was fine with the unimaginative “Reporter’s Notebook” because I couldn’t come up with anything better. Several times I encouraged the former Reporter editor, Jason Maholy, to write a column and call it “a bunch of Maholy.”
I’ve been able to come up with good ideas for others.
For me?
Not so good.
Well, it was finally time for a change so I cooked up this idea of posing with my press pass and calling the column “Forgive us our Press Passes’’ but I fell out of love with that bright idea about 24 hours later.
So, stuck with a photo of me with a press pass, I settled on “ImPRESSions” over “Full Court Press.”
Not great, but it beats the heck out “Editors Notebook.’’
Hopefully the column will stay funny, unusual and insightful.

Full disclosure
We never want to deceive the public and using the magic of the computer to change a picture is something I usually forbid.
But I requested to our fine designer, Kari Nelson, to make the press pass in my hand a little bigger so that you can actually see the word “PRESS” on it. See, the pass is so small and I am so…Hmmm, how can I put this so I don’t sound like I am full of blubber? Oh yeah…majestic that you could hardly see the card.
So she jacked it up a little and I am owning up to our little bit of trickery.
Now if we can just get rid of some of that gray on my melon…